COLUMBUS, Ohio – No need to hit the panic button, Detroit fans. Despite some bad times and nagging question marks, the Red Wings are right back atop the heap.
Chris Osgood made 23 saves for his 49th career shutout, and the Red Wings beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-0 on Sunday to become the first team in NHL history to top 100 points in nine straight seasons. Detroit also clinched its 17th consecutive playoff spot.
“Obviously, to set an NHL record, it’s phenomenal,” coach Mike Babcock said. “I’ve only been part of it for four years, (but I’m) proud of the fact that for four years we’ve been over the century mark.”
Babcock then went on to single out general manager Ken Holland, the Illitch family that owns the team and several veteran players, noting the patience they’ve shown to build a perennial powerhouse.
“That’s beyond impressive,” Babcock said. “When you look at that, I’m proud for those people. For us, we’re just trying to get better and get prepared for the playoffs.”
Osgood, struggling to find his form before the playoffs, looked like his old self in his second shutout of the season.
“It seems like every (year) we end up in the same spot,” said Osgood, who tied longtime friend and teammate, Mike Vernon, for 11th on the career list with 385 victories. “We’ve got a good core, a good group of guys. We know how to fight through adversity. We know how to deal with the pressures of playing in Detroit. We always know in the end that we’re going to be there and give ourselves a good chance to win in the end.”
The victory came eight days after the Blue Jackets humiliated the reigning Stanley Cup champions 8-2 on their own ice, with Osgood surrendering seven goals – also on 23 shots.
“Anytime you’re embarrassed it is (motivation),” Babcock said. “They’re big boys, they’re smart. They were up for the game. They suffered humiliation, just like anybody else. We needed to respond here today.”
Johan Franzen and Niklas Kronwall each had a goal and an assist, and Marian Hossa and Mikael Samuelsson also scored for Detroit, the NHL leader with 101 points.
The Red Wings broke a tie with Montreal (1974-75 through 1981-82) for the NHL mark for consecutive 100-point seasons.
The loss ended the Blue Jackets’ winning streaks at four overall and three at home.
“We gave it to them last time and they showed us why they are the best team in the league tonight,” Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash said.
Columbus came into the game alone in sixth place in the Western Conference with 78 points, four ahead of Dallas and five in front of Edmonton and Nashville. The Blue Jackets are striving to make the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.
The Red Wings played committed, efficient, almost desperate hockey – almost as if they also were fighting for a playoff spot instead of playing out the string before their 17th consecutive post-season trip.
Only 29 seconds in, the Red Wings found the back of the net – although Brad Stuart’s slap shot was waved off because teammate Tomas Holmstrom was standing in the crease.
No matter. The Red Wings stayed on a roll.
Hossa streaked up the left wing past two defencemen and was able to get off a shot on Detroit goalie Steve Mason. He then pounced on the rebound and slid it between Mason’s leg pads for his 35th of the year.
Detroit had a two-man advantage when Kronwall took a drop pass from Jiri Hudler and one-timed it past Mason from the left point. Samuelsson then converted a turnover into his 18th of the year before Franzen scored his 28th.
Osgood, meanwhile, was up to all challenges. He stopped R.J. Umberger as he swooped in all alone in the second period, then later blocked a Rick Nash wrist shot. In the third, he smothered Kris Russell’s blast on a delayed penalty.
“We played a real solid road game. We played smart, too,” said captain Nicklas Lidstrom.
Notes: Several hundred fans were lined up halfway around the arena 2 hours before the game started, hoping to purchase reduced-price tickets. … Announced attendance was 18,685, the sixth sellout of the season. … Detroit C Valtteri Filppula was a scratch with back spasms. … Columbus needed a win to tie the franchise record for points (80) in a season, set a year ago. The Blue Jackets have 12 games remaining. … The Wings went 3-2-1 in the season series.